Influence of agronomic management of legume crops on soil accumulation with nitrate

Gerard O'Connor, Jeffrey Evans, Archibald Black, Neil Fettell, Beverley Ann Orchard, Ron Theo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Nitrate is known to accumulate under legume crops. The effects of legume crop, inoculation, row width, sowing rate, sowing date, and intracropping with wheat, on the amount and soil distribution of mineral N, residual soil water, crop biomass and crop N were studied at Wagga Wagga in south-east Australia. After removal of most of the above-ground plant material, the treatment effects on the biomass, N content, grain yield and grain N of wheat, established in the following season, were also measured. In a later experiment at Wagga, the recovery of 15N applied to the mid-row of lupin crops established at three row widths was estimated at crop maturity. At Condobolin, row width effects on the soildistribution of mineral N, biomass, N accumulation and N fixation of crop legumes and cereals, were determined. At physiological maturity, at Wagga Wagga, very little nitrate was left beneath cereals. Significantly more was left under legume crops, mostly below 30 cm of soil depth, and it was distributed differently depending on crop, inoculation, and sampling location. More nitrate was left under pea and faba than under lupin, and in response to inoculation. Mixing wheat with narrow-leaf lupin did not prevent nitrate accumulation in soil. For most of the legumes more nitrate was left in the mid-row than in the in-row; and more nitrate was left at the mid-row of lupin crops sown with wider rows. The additional nitrate left with wider rows increased the growth,N content, grain yield and protein of wheat established in the following season. 15N labelled nitrate applied mid-row was used less effectively by lupin as row width increased, in a dry season. At Condobolin, lupin established with wide rows used less soil nitrate than with narrower rows but maintained crop N by increased N fixation. In contrast, field pea maintained N demand by increasing nitrate uptake at intermediate row spacing. The study shows that the amount of nitrate accumulated in soil during legume croppiis susceptible to agronomic management, particularly crop selection, row width and inoculation; and that variation in the amount of this nitrate may carry forward to impact wheat production in the follow-on season.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-286
Number of pages18
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


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